What’s Up with Moses’ Shoes?

Travel anywhere having to go through an airport and you see one common sight going through security checkpoints… people removing their shoes in order to proceed. As Moses approached the Burning Bush, God instructed him to do the same thing (Exodus 3:5). BTW, the same thing happens to Joshua as he encounters God (Joshua 5:15).

I have known many people from different cultures, from the Middle East, to North Africa, to Asia, and one common thread when entering a person’s home is to remove your shoes. It is not only an issue of cleanliness (eliminating mud, dirt, filth and whatever one perhaps stepped on) but it is also a sign of respect. Moses needed to stand before God in respect and recognition that he stood on God’s turf. If we refuse to remove our shoes, it is an insult to the homeowner; let’s not insist on having our own way.

Literally and Figuratively:
In Africa, I was amazed at the locals ability to walk around barefoot. Whenever I tried to “go native” there was hot pavement, sharp stones, and all sorts of debris that caused me pain. Shoes protect you from feeling thorns, stones and debris found on the road. So, when you walk down the road barefoot, you feel everything you step on. When you walk down the road in shoes, you pass along quite easily, oblivious to what could be painful to others without shoes.

At this appointment service for Moses, he was commanded to remove his shoes. Perhaps God wanted him to walk through life “barefoot” so that he could feel and understand every bit of pain and sorrow his people experienced. Moses could not isolate himself from the plight of his people. He could not put on his figurative shoes of indifference, caring for himself, at the cost of feeling the distress of God’s people. We also should take off our shoes of apathy and be sensitive to opportunities to do kindness to others.

When it comes to shoe removal, it seems that as Moses stood there on the mountain, in the presence of God, there was a thin strip of leather that came between Moses and the Holy Ground. The shoes were a man-made and self-imposed barrier, and God wanted Moses to actually touch the holy ground in order to experience the transference of holiness to his chosen leader. Touch is a powerful method and symbol of transference (Exodus 29:10, Leviticus 16:21-22, Acts 13:2-3) and God wanted nothing between them, even something so insignificant as a shoe.

Since God said to remove the shoes, we might think that to be a rather silly request or requirement, but there is a simple truth here; we cannot come to God on our own terms. We come to God only on his terms. There is no self-style worship or obedience allowed. Also, when you think about the greatness of God, aren’t we supposed to stand there feeling rather insignificant? Is there anything more emotionally humiliating that standing barefoot while everyone else is dressed up for a black-tie event? We come before God in humility, not strutting into his presence any way we feel like it.

Maybe we all should come to worship with bare feet.

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When Moses Met God

The newest sermon series at King’s Grant is on the great “I AM” statements of Jesus, and the first message goes back to where we first read about that name (Exodus 3:14). Let’s dig in to this story just a bit.

Moses is a fugitive from Egypt since he killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:14-15) and is living on the backside of the desert (Acts 7:23, Exodus 7:7). Perhaps he had been praying for the deliverance of his people, remembering their suffering. It is good to know that God calls people who are busy.

  1. Gideon was busy threshing wheat (Judges 6:11)
  2. Samuel was in church (1 Samuel 3:3-4)
  3. David was caring for sheep (1 Samuel 17:20)
  4. Elisha was plowing (1 Kings 19:19-21)
  5. Four disciples were fishing (Mark 1:16-20)
  6. Matthew was collecting taxes (Matthew 9:9)

You can’t steer a parked car, so keep moving and stay busy while listening for God’s call.

What Moses Saw (Exodus 3:1-4):
God takes an insignificant bush and ignites it, turning it into a miracle. That is exactly what God wanted to do with Moses. He was a weak bush and would be an empowering fire (Exodus 19:18, 24:17, Deuteronomy 4:24, Judges 13:20, Hebrews 12:29).

What Moses Heard (Exodus 3:5-10):
God spoke and told his that he was the God of his fathers and that he had seen the suffering in Egypt. Then he told Moses that he would send Moses to get them. He must have wondered why God would choose such a failure.

What Moses Did (Exodus 3:3-4:17):
Rather than rejoicing and saying, “her I am, send me,” Moses began with the excuses and argued with God. He gave five excuses why he was not the right guy for the job.

  1. I’m a Nobody (Exodus 3:11-12): Moses was looking to himself rather than looking with faith at the one who had called him. God tells him that it is not about him, and assures him that “I will be with you.”
  2. I Don’t Know Your Name (Exodus 3:13-22): God’s name of Yahweh had been known for generations (Genesis 4:26) and familiar to the Patriarchs (Genesis 14:22, 15:1, 25:21-22, 28:13, 49:18). What Moses asked was, “What does your name mean? What kind of God are you?” It is a dynamic name, from the verb “to be” or “to become.” He is the self-existing one who always was and always will be. He is faithful and dependable. The name “I AM” will be used by Jesus in John’s gospel to equate himself with this same God (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51, 8:12, 10:7, 9, 11, 14, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1, 5).
  3. The People Won’t Believe Me (Exodus 4:1-9): What Moses really meant, was, “I don’t believe you.” He was so concerned about his credentials before the Jewish leaders, and God gave three signs to convince them that Moses was the chosen servant (1 Corinthians 1:22).
  4. I’m Not a Good Speaker (Exodus 4:10-12): This completely missed the message of God’s power. Since “I AM” is going to be with him, he cannot say “I AM NOT.” Seems Moses may have had false humility, seeing himself as a worthless failure. Humility is not thinking about less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. In God’s presence he is all that he needs to be.
  5. Someone Else Can Do It Better (Exodus 4:13-17): Moses called him Lord and then refuse his marching orders (Luke 6:46, Acts 10:14). In anger God appoints Aaron to be the mouthpiece for Moses, but he wasn’t always a help to his brother (remember the golden calf episode in Exodus 32?) and his sister was critical of him and brought trouble into the camp (Numbers 12). It turns out that Moses was very capable to speaking in public, as seen in Egypt and in the Deuteronomy speeches.

The lesson is simple: God knows us better than we know ourselves. We need to trust and obey. When we share our weaknesses with God, they are really only excuses for not wanting to do what he is asking. Remember that we are not telling God anything he does not already know (Judges 6:15, 1 Samuel 9:21, Jeremiah 1:6). God will empower us for the task. We must simply be FAT… Faithful, Available and Teachable.

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Coming to Grips with the Real You

The Scripture reading for today: Romans 12:3, 1 Corinthians 12:7, Galatians 6:4, 1 Peter 4:10

The r12 series so far has been filled with powerful lessons on Surrendering to God and Separating from the World. Today the topic is to be Sober in Self-Assessment, basically Coming to Grips with the Real You.

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There is a person that we feel and believe ourselves to be, but we often fail to see ourselves from God’s perspective. The verses we read earlier have to do with spiritual giftedness, and challenge us to explore, employ and exercise the gift or ability that God has given to us. Galatians 6:4 is translated this way in the Message version: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others.”

While these are challenging messages each week, don’t forget to incorporate the small group experience. This is where we can talk about the concept and have a better chance of putting the topic into action. It’s like taking the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class, this message is only 20% head knowledge, the 80% is bring about real life change and that happens only in the context of a small group.

So, as we begin, I have to ask a penetrating question: Who do you really think you are?

When you peel away all the layers of things like your job or success or the hurts or the pain or the abuse, and you look into the mirror of your soul – What do you see? Who are you? We go to the extreme to try and present ourselves in a way that’s a little bit different than who we are. We want to look good for other people, to find acceptance and value and significance.

This question is not an easy one to answer because there are many factors involved and many people who try to tell us who we are. To complicate matters, our desperate longing for approval drives us to seek and to look and to act and be what we think others want, rather than discover who we really are.

I’d like to tell you that older people don’t have to deal with this, but you will grapple with this all the days of your life. Who are you, really? What you discover will determine the quality of your relationships and the contentment of your life. An awful lot of people are doing a lot of stuff in lots of areas, looking for peace and contentment, because down deep they don’t know who they are. And if the truth is known, they really don’t like who they are.

It raises another question: What are the factors that cause me to develop this kind of invisible picture, this MRI of who I really am? How did I get that way? It could be our family background, our environment, our personalities, the significant others, role models from our childhood, the values and belief systems we were taught all play a critical role in the formation of our identity.

We’re going to jump into the book of Exodus, take a look at Moses, and try to get some answers. Moses had quite a journey trying to figure out who he was. At one point he thought way too highly of himself and he almost blew it. At another point he thought way too lowly of himself and almost blew it again.

Here’s one thing you need to understand. If you don’t get a sober self-assessment and understand who you really are, you will never fulfill the divine calling God has for you. It’s not about who you want to be nor who you think you are, God made each of us in a certain way. It’s because, you’re made for a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says “You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good work – a good work that he has for you. So he made you in a certain way to fulfill that purpose. But if you don’t know who you are, you’ll miss it.

Moses almost missed it. To begin with, we must realize that we are on a journey. That’s point #1 on your outline, “Moses’ Journey reveals how to come to grips with the real you.” This isn’t a one-time experience where you walk away and got it all down. Moses’ parents, childhood, education, and experiences were God’s preparation so that he could fulfill his divine assignment.

As you look in Exodus Chapter 2, the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt for about 400 years. But during these 400 years, the number of Israelites increases dramatically. The Pharaoh becomes a little nervous because there are so many Hebrew slaves. And he becomes afraid that these Hebrew slaves are going to revolt and take over Egypt. So he decides that the Israelite baby boys have to die.

Moses parents trusted God and have a baby anyway. They hid him for three months, but when she could no longer hide him, she put a little basket and waterproofed it. Then she put the baby in a basket and laid it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile River, where eventually the Pharaoh’s daughter would raise him as her own child in the palace.

A lot went into Moses life, but the point is: he had parents that were godly. They were willing to risk their lives rather than have him killed. They had faith. Perhaps his parents were whispering in his ear who God was. They taught him about Yahweh, the promises, the deliverance. And then he had parents that were willing to say, “You know what? If this is God’s will for you to live in Pharaoh’s house, then so be it.” Now, that’s surrender.

The second bullet in your outline, Moses had a warped view of himself. He thought too highly of himself, which hindered him from fulfilling God’s purpose for his life. Look at Exodus 2:11-12, “Moses had grown up, and he went out to visit his people, the Israelites. And he saw how they were doing forced labor. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrew slaves. After looking around to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. Remember that He’s a Hebrew even though he grew up in Pharaoh’s palace. He’s got these roots; he’s got these concerns for his fellow Hebrews. But he is the prince of Egypt, the next guy for the throne.

The next day, Moses sees these two Hebrews arguing and said to the one started the fight, “What are you doing, hitting your neighbor like that?” And then get this line in Exodus 2:14 (in the Message): “Who do you think you are?” It’s an interesting question. “Do you plan to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” Moses gets scared and takes off, and Pharaoh gave orders to have Moses arrested and killed. So Moses ends up in the Land of Midian.

Moses thought too highly of himself. Now, here’s what’s interesting. Sometimes we get our assignment right: “This is what I’m supposed to do.” But we try and do it in our own energy. Moses basically thought, “I’m capable. I’m able. I’m educated. And guess what? I’m the prince. You know what? I call the shots here.”

He had confidence in himself. His warped view was that he had power, prestige; and he believed his abilities, his education, and his background gave him the right to call the shots. And he tried to do God’s will his own way, in his own energy and his own power. And because he had this over-inflated view of who he was – he almost missed it.

That’s true of us. You think, “I have this education. A job. I moved up. Then I did this. I’ve spent all these years working hard. I have this on my heart; I think my motives are right.” Then we move forward. I think Moses’ motives were right (delivering the people), but his methodology was wrong. And God had to teach him something.

But sometimes we don’t just have a too high view of ourselves that prevent us from fulfilling our divine calling. Sometimes it’s too low. Moses’ low view of himself almost prevented him from fulfilling God’s purpose for his life. Let’s walk through this part of Moses’ life as well. He meets God for the first time and basically has four excuses why he could not do the task God called him to do.

I’m going to skip some of the juicy parts and a lot of great parts, but in chapter 3, we find Moses in the back side of the desert tending his flocks. He’d been out with these sheep. He’s got a new world. He’s got a new wife. He thinks his life is over; ready for retirement and an easy life. He’s also hiding out.

As he’s out on this rocky terrain, he sees this bush. And the bush is on fire, but it’s not burning up. Moses comes near and God speaks to him in Exodus 3:9-10: “I’ve heard the cry of my people. And guess what? Your instincts to rescue them were right. And I’m going to use you to rescue them. I want you to go be my deliverer.”

A few years ago Moses would have been thinking, “It’s a snap, man. I’ve got it covered.” Now listen to him, here is excuse number one: “Moses says, ‘But who am I?’ “ Interesting question, isn’t it? Before, they asked him, “Who do you think you are?” Now it’s like, “Well, who am I?” “I’m a nobody. No one could ever use me. I’m a failure. I blew it. I’m nothing. How can you expect me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”

How many times has a too-low view of yourself kept you from doing what God has asked you to do? God might say, “I want you to do this. I have a task for you, just volunteer to be a servant or teacher at church.” And your response is “Well, who am I?”

Then God told him, “I will be with you.” Understand that we can’t serve in our own strength. Apart from Him we can do nothing. It’s like God says, “What’s really important is – who I am. And that I’m going to be with you.”

Now we get excuse number two. Moses is not convinced and he protested, “If I go to the people tell them, ‘God has sent me,’ they won’t believe me. They will ask, ‘Which god are you talking about? What’s his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” Excuse number one was, “I’m a nobody.” And excuse number two is that “I’m not smart enough.”

Let’s get back to you, and let’s say God lays it on your heart to teach children or students or adults in Sunday School. You start thinking “They’re going to ask me questions I don’t know. I’m no good at talking about the Lord or teaching a lesson. If I take this step of faith, I’m going to blow it. I’m just not smart enough. I didn’t go to seminary.”

So how does God answer that? With his name. God replied, “I am the one who always is,” or literally, “I am that I am.” “Just tell them that I AM sent you.”

Skip down to 3:18. God reassures Moses again. “Hey, you don’t have to be smart enough. The leaders of the people of Israel are going to accept your message.” And then he says in 3:21, “I promise even the Egyptians will treat you well. When you leave, you will not leave empty-handed.”

Now we move into chapter 4, and we get excuse number three. So God reassures him, “I’ll be with you. I’ll take care of it.” In Exodus 4:1 we read: “But Moses protested again, ‘Look, they won’t believe me. They won’t do what I tell them. They’ll just say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you.'” First, Moses says, “I’m a nobody, so God can never use me.” The second excuse is “I’m not smart enough.” Now it’s, “I’m not credible, they’re not going to listen to me, I don’t have the credentials. I don’t have the platform. They’ll never listen to me.”

Here comes the whole “turning a shepherd’s staff into a snake episode;” God tells him to perform this miracle and it will prove I sent you.

We are still not finished with the excuses, here comes number four. Moses seems to be a very slow learner. He’s had 40 years to get stuck in his ways. 40 years earlier he thought he was such hot stuff, but now he thinks he’s nothing. So as we pick up the story in Exodus 4:10, the Bible says – “Moses pleaded with the Lord.” So here’s a guy who’s really learning to pray. He’s pleading, ” Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, no. No. No. No, not me.” So he’s pleading with the Lord. He says, “You know what? All your answers have been pretty good, but I’m just not a very good speaker. This is really going to take some oratory skill. I’m just not gifted. I don’t have the ability. You’ve got the wrong guy.”

God’s answer is, “Who makes man’s mouth?” God tells him he is created just as he wanted. And listen to this, after being convinced by the God of the universe that he is made exactly right for the job he’s being called to do, Moses says, “Lord, could you just send someone else?” Now, I think this is one of the most amazing passages in Scripture. You talk about mercy and grace. You talk about a guy backing into God’s will. He is as reluctant as he can be. And yet, God’s got his hand on his life.

And so God says, “Tell you what, Moses. I’m going to accommodate you, so Aaron, your brother – he’s a good speaker. You know what? I’m going to have him help you. And he can do some of the speaking. And I’ll talk to you, and you tell him what to do. And he’ll do a good job up front. He’s a good PR guy. But boy, he’s going to cause you problems later. He’s also an artist; he builds golden calves, and leads small rebellions.”

Sometimes we think too highly of ourselves and we miss God’s calling. Sometimes we think too lowly of ourselves and we miss God’s will. Moses’ trust in God’s promises and God’s character was reluctant, but it was there. He was taking baby steps toward a sober self-assessment.

Take a look in your outline for the answers to each excuse. We give God all these excuses and fail to realize we have inside of us all the power we need to do all God wants us to do.

Moses’ life reveals that a sober self-assessment is a prerequisite to fulfill your divine assignment. You can’t do what God made you to do unless you figure out who you are. Our key passage in the r12 study is Romans 12:3. It says, “For by the grace given to me, I say to every one of you, ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of the faith that God has given you.’ “

You know what he’s saying? “Look, you’re surrendered to God. You’ve offered your body as a living sacrifice. You’re saying ‘no’ to the world. You’re not going to let it conform you. You’re saying ‘yes’ to God. You’re renewing your mind.”

The first place to renew your mind is, don’t think too highly of yourself. Don’t think too lowly of yourself. Look into the mirror of your soul and realize this is who God made you to be. Do you know what this means? You have strengths and you have weaknesses. You have things in your past and perhaps you have terrible suffering. Some of you carry unbelievable hurts, and some have even been abused. You are more than the sum of your life experiences. Those experiences have produced scars that make it hard to trust people and have compassion. It is essential for you to have an accurate view of yourself, from God’s perspective.

Part of this sober self-assessment is: God’s going to bring other people’s strengths to help you. You’re going to find there are no lone rangers in the Christian life. You need others, and they need you.

Next Steps:

I want you to take out your outline and focus on the bottom where it says, “Top three strengths,” and “Top three weaknesses.” I’m asking you to do some thinking and fill that out. Most of us could quickly fill out the bottom part. “I’m not good at this; I’m not good at that.” You probably have a too-low self-assessment. And there’s probably a handful who could say, “I’m good at this or that,” but when you think about your weaknesses, you have a hard time coming up with anything.

So, what are your top three strengths? Jot them down. What are your top three weaknesses? Who are the people that you need in your life? While others can help us see ourselves clearly, no one can give you a totally accurate view of your life but God. Remember, You’re his workmanship. Literally, you’re his “poem.” His tapestry. His work of art.

At the bottom of your notes, let me get you started on some very specific application. Number one is “Ask God to help you recognize the warped mirrors of the world that have shaped your life.” Like a fun house mirror distorts or warps the image. If your child was struggling with life, and they came to you for help, you’d do everything you could to help them, wouldn’t you?

So don’t you think our heavenly Father will be even more receptive. You might say, “I’m a workaholic, or alcoholic. I’m pleasing people all the time. I say ‘yes’ to everything. I get overextended. I don’t like my body. I struggle with depression,” and on and on. And by the way, I’m just describing all of us in this room, at various levels, at various times.

This week, take that outline and share it with someone that you trust, and say, “I was in the service this weekend and we did this little exercise about our strengths and weaknesses. I think these are my top three strengths and these are my top three weaknesses. What do you think? Give me your honest feedback.”

Second, realize you are on a journey and begin it today. I’ve listed a couple items that can help you on that journey.

Final thing I would encourage you is: celebrate daily that you are unique, loved, accepted, capable, and being prepared to fulfill your divine assignment. Ask the Father that he would help you launch into the journey of a sober self-assessment, being able to see yourself the way God see you, in order to fulfill the divine assignment he have for you.

I challenge you to commit to these next steps, and to begin this week. May God bless you and more importantly, may you be a blessing to God this week.

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A Warning From the Past

During the Exodus, Moses and the children of Israel escaped the slavery of the Egyptians. As they traveled toward the Promised Land, they witnessed a lot of miraculous things.

  1. God parted the waters of the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was wiped out.
  2. God guided them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
  3. God directed their path as Moses was out in front of them, leading.
  4. God provided food to eat; manna from heaven and water from a rock.

They were surrounded by unmatched privileges. God was constantly in their presence. His working in their midst was evident. In fact, I think these people should have been the epitome of godliness, if for no other reason than out of gratitude for what God had done for them, but they weren’t. The apostle Paul wrote about these people, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:5). As they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land, they played games with their lives and with their God.

I believe this is dangerous business.

Just what happened to God’s own people? What caused their bodies to be scattered in the wilderness? Paul tells us the reason for their tragedy and downfall, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry” (1 Corinthians 10:7). Many of you were in college; doesn’t this sound like a fraternity party?

What was the real problem? I submit to you that:

  1. They lost their sense of wonder and awe in God’s presence.
  2. They lost their wonder; the supernatural became commonplace.
  3. They were good at God-talk (which was plentiful), but they lacked a reverence and respect for God.
  4. They became calloused to the divine.
  5. They became indifferent in their values.
  6. They compromised their religious beliefs.
  7. They forgot their heritage.
  8. They were apathetic about spiritual matters and God’s Law.
  9. They did not mean business with God.
  10. They had a relationship with God that became a farce.

Never in the history of the world has one country been so blessed. Sound familiar? Now take a look at America. We are inundated with churches, Christian radio and television programs, Christian magazines and books, Christian schools, Christian conferences and seminars. Never has the potential for religious instruction been so prominent. Our churches should be overflowing with godly men and women intent on fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). We cannot blame it on the government for taking God out of the public school; remember that we are the ones who should be salt and light in the world, making a difference in our society.

But are we? All too often, Christians walk down the same paths of carnality as these ancient Israelites. Non-believers can’t tell the difference between church people and anyone else in society. We make light of what we should honor. We wink at that which we should weep. We play with what we should take quite seriously. And our families suffer the effects of our shallow faith.

The children of Israel serve as a warning to every believer. Heed the warning of Paul who tells us that God was not pleased with them. Pleasing God should be the desire of each follower of Christ, to please the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Let’s take God seriously.

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